Action Director and 3D Animator Dom Fred told us about Space Agents: The Mysterious Ax, a short sci-fi animated movie, explaining how Reallusion's iClone 8 and ActorCore were utilized in production.
I am Dom Fred, an Action Director, 3D Animator, and VFX Artist. My career in television began in the year 2002 as a 2D/3D Computer Graphic Designer for TV design, storyboard design, and production of commercials for clients and entertainment shows, including documentary films with 3D character inlays.
Since childhood, I have practiced various martial arts such as Taekwondo, Aikido, and Kung Fu. I am a senior in quite a few martial arts today and travel the world giving seminars and masterclasses on martial arts on screen and in cinema.
I have been passionate about 3D in video games since my childhood, thanks to my father. Spending hours in front of the screen playing and witnessing the evolution of graphics on various game consoles of the time, like the Atari Game or Nintendo, I immediately understood that I was going to pursue a career as a 3D Computer Animator and Designer.
After a career in computer systems programming, the world of multimedia was within my reach, and 3D modeling software allowed me to better illustrate my ideas despite the lack of detailed graphics that we have today.
Television channels have all transitioned from analog to digital, and the presence of 3D has made it possible to better illustrate technological developments to investors and decision-makers. It was an opportunity for me to apply my knowledge of computers and 3D computer graphics to the needs of television. Thus, I offered 3D animations with objects dancing on a football field, preceding advertising segments, or even 3D illustrations of a product ordered by a customer.
Discovering Reallusion Tools
I have basic training in the Autodesk environment and specific training in 3ds Max. Over the years, I have had to migrate to Maya for technical animation needs and the tools it provides to experienced animators.
In our world of 3D animators for animated films or 3D creations for video games, the common point is time. How long will it take me to make something and how much will it cost in the production budget? The particularity of the iClone and Reallusion tools is the access to a good number of design tools which save time, efficiently, and financially for small or large budget projects.
Tutorials are available to you with very specific themes and needs to give you the opportunity to better understand the software and the updates. It is thanks to Reallusion that we were able to make an ambitious film with a small team for an incredible result worthy of a major film production.
Space Agents: The Mysterious Ax
The project was conceived in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, driven by the desire for escapism and artistic creation. At that time, I was conducting numerous animation tests, and one day, I decided to create a purely action-packed sci-fi short film, a 5-minute endeavor made entirely in Maya.
I named it Space Agents: The Mysterious Ax, a title we retained for the feature film version. After releasing the short film on my Facebook page, I received positive feedback from the media. I reached out to my collaborator, Alick Macaire, and after a lengthy discussion, we decided to develop a feature film based on the concept explored in the short film.
Today, it may seem easy in retrospect, but in reality, it took a total of three years, with a small team working closely from home due to the confinement measures in place.
Choosing iClone for Production
For an independent production like mine, the questions of working time and money are always crucial throughout the production of an animated film. Fortunately, iClone 8 proved to be the solution we needed in our production pipeline.
One of the most significant advantages was the seamless and quick import of animations from ActorCore to iClone 8 software for all the animations we purchased from the marketplace. This direct bridge significantly boosted our efficiency and allowed us to have complete control over the flow of animations required for complex fight scenes.
The Mocap Pipeline
iClone has simplified the process of cleaning up motion captures, making adjustments, and adding more movements to the characters in our timeline. This is often an arduous task requiring perfect mastery of the tools.
However, with iClone, we were able to accomplish these tasks more easily, saving hours of work. An important point we noted in iClone during production was the ability to assign any motion capture coming from Rokoko, Mixamo, or ActorCore without having to recalibrate our rigs. A simple drag and drop made the workflow easier, given the complexity of the scenes and the number of characters.
Thanks to the more controlled workflow it offered, this was a game-changer for our independent production, both in terms of time management and budgetary considerations. Overall, iClone 8 has been an invaluable tool that has streamlined our animation production process, making it more efficient and cost-effective.
Working With ActorCore
One of the main advantages of ActorCore is its well-organized classification of motion capture pieces by category and theme. This made it incredibly convenient to find the specific moves we needed for various scenes in Space Agents: The Mysterious Ax and our other projects.
For fight scenes and drama scenes, ActorCore offered a much wider selection and a greater variety of combinations. This diversity allowed us to create more dynamic and engaging sequences, adding depth and excitement to the film.
The quality of motion capture provided by ActorCore is exceptional, with a level of realism clearly honed by professionals in the film industry. As independent producers, this allowed us to create a high-quality animated film that fulfills a thoughtful artistic vision.
With a small budget like ours, I don't think that the final result could have been achieved with a traditional approach, without Reallusion's tools. Given the complexity and demands of an animated film production, the project would have taken an additional 5 to 6 years.
And yet, we have just produced an animated film lasting 94 minutes in independent production with incredible quality, and even in my childhood dreams, I couldn't believe it for a single second.
Now, three years later, we can't wait to bring our movie Space Agents: The Mysterious Ax to the world. Thank you to our talented actors, our dedicated collaborators, and our supportive producers, who have been with us since the start of this adventure. "Alone we go faster, together we go further."